Markos Moulitsas: Lessons from Indiana

Markos Moulitsas: Lessons from Indiana
© Greg Nash

Last week, Indiana passed a “religious freedom” bill that is merely a thinly disguised free pass for discrimination. In short, it elevates the rights of “religious” people over those of virtually everyone else, allowing them to engage in any discriminatory behavior not banned by federal law. 

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has claimed that the bill “is not about discrimination,” saying he would have vetoed it if it were. Yet that’s exactly what Republicans claimed it would do in floor debate. State Rep. Bruce Borders claimed that the church edict to “do all things as unto the Lord” means that Christians (and we’re really just talking Christians here) should be allowed to discriminate at church and at work as well. 

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Indeed, Republicans fought back several amendments offered by Democrats that would have made it clear that the law did not permit businesses to discriminate. After all, Republicans claimed that wasn’t the law’s intent! Of course, Republicans voted those amendments down. 

But while such discrimination might be OK in Indiana, the national blowback has been fierce. 

Hall of Fame basketball star Charles Barkley called on the NCAA to quit hosting basketball tournament games in Indiana, which gets the Final Four this year. For his part, NCAA President Mark Emmert said his organization was evaluating future events in the state: “Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

#BoycottIndiana trended to No. 1 on Twitter over the weekend, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees decided to do just that, pulling a conference out of the state this year. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy issued an executive order forbidding state-funded travel to Indiana because, “When new laws turn back the clock on progress, we can’t sit idly by.” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff moved a conference that attracts 10,000 people from Indianapolis to New York City. 

Angie’s List quit a $40 million expansion of its Indianapolis headquarters just days before it was scheduled to break ground, and is looking for alternative locations. Tim Cook, CEO of the world’s most valuable company, Apple, has been withering in his criticism: “Around the world, we strive to treat every customer the same,” he said, “regardless of where they come from, how they worship or who they love.” Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman wrote an “open letter to states considering imposing discrimination laws,” which read, in part, “Yelp will make every effort to expand its corporate presence only in states that do not have these laws allowing for discrimination on the books.”

A similar bill died in the Montana Legislature, as Gov. Steve Bullock warned, “What’s happening in Indiana is something that shouldn’t be happening in Montana.” Republicans control the chamber 61-39. In Georgia, where the state House has a 120-59 Republican advantage, hearings on a similar bill were abruptly ended on Sunday, dooming that effort for the current legislative cycle. 

And it’s funny, while Republicans insisted that their right to discriminate was critically necessary for its business community, CNBC reported looking for one of these advocates to defend the bill on air but said none had spoken up.

It’s unfortunate that it has taken this to bring Indiana kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but if Montana and Georgia are any indication, it has become a teachable moment for reprobate Republicans all over the country. And we can definitely call that progress. 

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.